News - Lignans linked to a lithe physique
Previous research has focused on plant lignans as a useful aid in reducing the risk of prostate cancer and in improving menopausal health, but Canadian researchers have recently discovered that women who eat a more lignan-rich diet also tend to have a lower BMI and less total body fat.
Lignans are phytonutrients that are found in wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, but they are present in particularly high amounts in flax seeds. When lignan-rich foods are consumed, the friendly bacteria in the gut help to metabolise them into two chemicals called enterodiol and enterolactone.
In this study, 115 post-menopausal women underwent blood tests to see how much enterolactone was present in their bloodstream. Lignan intake was monitored using a three-day dietary record and BMI and body fat measurements were then made. These were then correlated with the enterolactone test results.
The results showed that a high intake of lignans was associated with lower body fat mass and BMI, compared to women with the lowest average intakes. On average, the women with the highest blood levels of enterolactone had a BMI four points less than women with the lowest average blood levels. In addition, the highest blood levels of enterolactone were also associated with 8.5kg less body fat, compared to women with the lowest levels.
Interestingly, women with the highest average blood levels of enterolactone also showed improved glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar levels. This explains why they find it easier to achieve healthy body fat and BMI measurements.
So, next time your trousers are feeling a little tighter than usual, why not reap the many benefits of lignans by sprinkling some ground flax seeds on your breakfast?
A. Tchernof et al. British Journal of Nutrition (2009)